Origins of the state

January 4, 2023   |   Tags:

In a recent commentary, Dan Sanchez (originally published in his Substack publication “Letters on Liberty) briefly examined two competing libertarian ideas on how the state (government) began. (He provided a postscript here.) Let us delve a bit deeper into the topic here at TPOL.

The first, Dan explains, had it modern origins with the esteemed John Locke. It is the idea shared by other great libertarians like Ayn Rand, Ludwig von Mises, Leonard Read, Frederic Bastiat, and in general, modern minarchists. Like us here at TPOL, Dan is a free-market anarchist, and he supports the competing view, tracing it to Herbert Spencer and Franz Oppenheimer, and advocated by Albert Jay Nock, among others.

The Locke view, one accepted by America’s Founding Fathers, believed that government was legitimate: created by a voluntary agreement between individuals to create and obey common laws to be enforced by a common government for the purpose of protecting the individuals’ rights (to life (body), liberty, and property (pursuit of happiness). This concept, this government, the state, was corrupted: the power was abused and perverted to create the state that we know today. But at its heart, the concept of (human) government is sound, if it can be reformed or restored to its original condition.

The Oppenheimer view (Dan’s and our understanding) is very different. Government was not corrupted: government in its very nature IS corrupt. That is, in violation of the laws of nature and Nature’s God. We believe that government was created by aggression against others. As Dan puts it, “not by contract but by conquest.

(Dan does not discuss the moral or religious aspects of this, and TPOL does not want to imply he agrees with our comments here. We understand that some readers will also likely disagree with our conclusions – both moral and spiritual.)

Spenser correctly states that “Government is begotten of aggression and by aggression” and therefore is evil from its very beginning. We note that this aggression is the fruit, the direct result, of rebellion. Rebellion against their Creator, against God. Government itself is the product of aggression and cannot be accepted by anyone who believes in and obeys God – at best, it can be tolerated. Nor can it be accepted by anyone who believes in a god or not – but believes that humans are by nature free.

The first recorded aggression we have of man against man is the murder of Abel by Cain: a direct result of Cain’s rebellion against God. The ideological, if not physical, descendant of Cain the Killer, after the Noahic Flood, was Nimrod, who established the first kingdom/empire we can find in the record: not just the Bible but the records recovered by archeologists from the clays and sands of Mesopotamia. 

No doubt there were many antediluvian tyrants, and many other than Nimrod after Noah and his family came through the waters. Like Nimrod and every government leader since, they were rebelling against the natural and godly order of family government. (For readers who are evolutionists, we ask what other species – even the ant – has a government that is not anything more than an extended family? Whether pack, herd, flock or whatever? While there are a few exceptions to groups aggressing against either some of their own or another species, there is no “king of the wolves” or even of the lions. Is not the closest analogy to human government the domination of alpha males in a herd or pack? But even that is family, not state in nature.) 

But whether Nimrod is historical or mythical, he exemplifies the evils of government: aggression, arrogance, greed for power, and denying the natural rights – the God-given rights – of other humans.

Today’s governments, despite the efforts of millions over the centuries, is really no different. That is just one reason, but a very important one, to resist them. Unlike fire, unlike wind, unlike animals and other natural dangers, we may think that we can make government into a servant by carefully controlling it. But ultimately, that fails.

Think on these things!